The Talking Heads, formerly of Portswood Road but now based in the Polygon, in Southampton will close its doors for the final time this month; another independent music venue suffocated from an every-changing landscape where the entertainment space is moving further and further away from live venues. This inevitably was always on the cards, ever since the venue was forced to move from its previous location, with fewer big-name artists gracing its stage and fewer punters putting money behind the bar and box office. But, no matter what your view of the Talking Heads is over the past few years, there is simply no denying that the demise of an independent music venue, especially one in a city once lauded for its musical heritage, is a heartbreaking shame.
We can only hope that those involved with the Talking Heads find more successful endeavours elsewhere, particularly with their other inner-city venue in Southampton – The 1865. No one deserves to have to close the doors of their own venue, a venue built from humble beginnings, but sometimes things happen for the best, and maybe this is one of those times… Perhaps this closure will give the music community in Southampton a long-overdue kick up the backside and encourage them to go back out into the city, back to the city’s music venues, back to experiencing live music in the most intimate of environments. Time will have to tell.
The city’s most prestigious independent venue, The Joiners, put on a farewell show at the Talking Heads last night, booking a line-up built up of the new, the growing, and the old of artists who have cut their teeth in these types of venues up and down the country. Portsmouth-based folk and blues group Shoot The Duke opened up the evening, Southampton’s own Sean McGowan provided the surprise for the main support slot, and then the ever-reliable and thoroughly entertaining Beans On Toast headlined the evening.
Beans was on top form as per usual, tailoring the setlist to the event, playing over twenty tracks from his ever-growing back catalogue and sharing numerous anecdotes with the crowd about how certain songs came about or his recent tour across mainland Europe. He was clearly the main attraction, filling out the venue from wall-to-wall – ironic really, considering if this had happened on a more regular basis then perhaps this would not have been a farewell show at all – whilst offering a perfect collection of tracks which encouraged an abundance of laughter, clapping and singing.
There are always smiles and laughter when Beans On Toast is performing – for however long he is on stage you are able to escape from the harsh reality of today’s hate-filled world and instead rebel against all that modern government, media and right-wing societies try to promote. His music sticks a middle finger up to “the man” and it makes you feel overly positive for that particular moment in time. Tracks like the ‘War On War’ and ‘The Chicken Song’ are perfect examples of this, providing a resounding “fuck you” to out-dated politics and questioning our moral ground as human beings in a world full of animals slaughtered in their thousands on a daily basis to fulfil our peri-peri needs. Then there are more light-hearted anthems that poke fun at ourselves, like his most well-known hit ‘MDM-Amazing’ and ‘The Ignorant Englishman’, which provide a break from the reminder of the doom and gloom that those previously mentioned tracks can evoke.
Beans On Toast epitomises what is great about small, local independent venues. They provide a respite from the world around, which can be rather unpleasant and unsavoury at times, through the wonders of music, creating a sense of togetherness that is hard to find in many other places – if at all. You can attend a football match and feel a togetherness as you chant the same songs with thousands of others, but there is always another group of people in that same venue that want a different outcome to you; in a music venue this is not the case, every single person in attendance is there for the same thing and for exactly the same outcome – to have a great time listening to an artist or band that you have all enjoyed at one point or another. It is also in these intimate spaces where bonds are forged between artist and fan, as there are fewer barriers – in fact there are often no physical barriers at all – compared to larger, more corporate venues. You can feel a sense of belonging in these small venues as you are surrounded by like-minded people, again, that is not possible in many other environments.
It is such shame that we have moved on from the booming live industry that dominated all major cities and towns up and down the country through to the 90s and 00s. There are still many people that enjoy regular trips to local venues for an evening of great music, but unfortunately the current form will not go anywhere near to ensuring the industry’s future. If our beloved venues, like last night’s hosts The Joiners, are to remain in our communities, we need to be the ones to ensure that they are funded – through ticket sales and money behind the bar – well enough.
Let’s not see another music venue die in vain.
Beans On Toast was playing at the Talking Heads in Southampton Wednesday 26th September.
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